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Ricabal, Kotsay Keep Titans Going : Baseball: Reliever gives up three hits and no runs in 8 1/3 innings and freshman drives in seven in Cal State Fullerton’s 10-3 victory.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Dan Ricabal went to the dugout after getting the final out in Florida State’s three-run first inning, the Cal State Fullerton pitcher thought of only one thing: “I said to myself, ‘Get me four runs and we’ll win this game.’ ”

The Titans and freshman Mark Kotsay did that and more. Kotsay drove in seven runs, four of them on a grand slam in the eighth, and the Titans went on to a 10-3 victory Tuesday in the College World Series. His RBI total tied a CWS record.

Ricabal, a key ingredient in Fullerton’s bid for a national championship, gave up only three hits in 8 1/3 innings after taking over for Chad Rolish.

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The victory sends Fullerton (47-15) against Georgia Tech (49-16) at 4:36 (PDT) today in another do-or-die game, one similar to what the Titans faced in the 1992 World Series.

Fullerton must beat Georgia Tech twice to reach the championship game against the lower-bracket winner, Arizona State or Oklahoma. In 1992, the Titans beat top-ranked Miami twice to reach the final but lost to Pepperdine in the championship game.

Today’s game is expected to be a rematch of the starting pitchers from Friday’s opener, Brad Rigby (14-4) for Georgia Tech and Mike Parisi (11-4) for the Titans. Rigby and the Yellow Jackets won that game, 2-0. Fullerton had won the regular-season game between the two teams, 2-0.

“We have one more chance at them,” Parisi said. “I like the situation we’re in. Georgia Tech is the team with all the pressure, the stars, the first-round picks. We’re just another team trying to stay alive.”

The Titans stayed alive Tuesday, thanks to Ricabal and Kotsay.

“Ricabal was the story of that game,” Florida State Coach Mike Martin said. “What a tremendous job of pitching. We’ve seen him before, but this was clearly one of his better moments.”

Fullerton Coach Augie Garrido and pitching coach George Horton had gone back and forth on whether to start Rolish or Ricabal. About two hours before the game, they decided on the left-handed Rolish because of the strength of the Seminoles’ left-handed hitters. They also wanted to try to preserve Ricabal for possible middle-inning relief.

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“Danny has been our best pitcher,” Horton said. “He was our best in the regional, but we wanted to save some pitches for him if we could. He’s a weapon we want to use over and over.”

Ricabal said he was “a little disappointed but not mad” when he learned he wasn’t starting. “You always want to start in a College World Series game, but Coach Horton explained it to me,” Ricabal said. “He was up front, and I understood where he was coming from. But I knew it was a big game, and I want the ball in a big game.”

Ricabal, now 12-1 for the year after struggling early in the season, won two games in the NCAA regional, and has been the winning pitcher in nine of Fullerton’s last 17 victories. His college record is 23-4. Not bad for a guy Major League Baseball didn’t bother to draft last week.

“I was so focused today that I couldn’t compare it to any other game I pitched,” Ricabal said. “I just wanted to go out and throw strikes and keep us in the game, and little by little we seemed to get our momentum back.”

The Seminoles chased Rolish with three runs on three hits in the first. Martin said he doubted that it would be enough to win. “Not against an Augie Garrido-coached team, the way they scratch out runs against you,” he said.

The Titans scored once in the second and fifth innings. Hits by Jim Betzsold and D.C. Olsen helped the Titans to one run in the third. Shortstop Jack Jones had a lead-off triple in the fifth and scored on Kotsay’s sacrifice fly.

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The Titans went ahead with three runs in the seventh. Walks to Craig Skyberg and Jones sent Florida State starter Charlie Cruz to the bench. Jeff Ferguson singled to load the bases, bringing Kotsay to the plate. He drilled the first of his two big hits, a double down the left-field line, scoring two runs. The third run scored on Millan’s hit after Dante Powell was intentionally walked. Powell had singled in the second, ending his 0-for-22 stretch in two College World Series appearances.

With the Titans leading, 5-3, Kotsay sealed the victory in the eighth. Two walks and a fielding error by the FSU shortstop Link Jarrett loaded the bases, and Kotsay cracked his fourth home run of the season to right field.

“It just seemed to happen naturally,” Kotsay said of the home run. “I don’t even know what was in my head at the time.”

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